01 November 2014

Saturday Sparkler: The Swedish Aquamarine Kokoshnik

Princess Margaretha, 1964

Yesterday, Princess Margaretha of Sweden celebrated a major milestone: her eightieth birthday. Expressen reports that her four siblings -- King Carl XVI Gustaf, Princess Birgitta, Princess Désirée, and Princess Christina -- organized a surprise birthday party for her in Stockholm. But we're extending the celebrations for her here by marveling at her tiara: the aquamarine kokoshnik that has been worn by generations of Swedish princesses.

Margaret of Connaught (source)

It's said that this tiara originally belonged to Margaretha's grandmother, Margaret of Connaught. To my knowledge, she was never photographed in the tiara, which also has a coordinating aquamarine and diamond brooch. But Margaret's collection was absolutely lousy with jewels, so it's certainly possible that she acquired the piece somewhere along the line. The maker of the tiara is unknown. Both the tiara and the brooch feature absolutely enormous aquamarines; the tiara places delicate lattice-like diamond elements in between the large blue stones to form the traditional kokoshnik shape.

Sibylla wears the tiara during her wedding ball, 1932 (source)

We're all familiar with the tragic story of Margaret of Connaught's death, which led to the division of her jewels among her children. If this piece was indeed a part of her collection, it was inherited by her eldest son, Gustaf Adolf, who was expected one day to become king. His wife, Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was possibly the first person to be photographed wearing the aquamarines. She debuted the tiara at a ball ahead of their civil wedding in Coburg in 1932. Sibylla wore the aquamarines throughout her lifetime, even after the untimely death of her husband in a 1947 plane crash. She was the de facto first lady of Sweden following the death of Queen Louise, and she was regularly bedecked in jewels.

Margaretha (second from left) wears the aquamarines, 1964

On Sibylla’s death in 1972, the aquamarines were inherited by her eldest daughter, Princess Margaretha. Margaretha had worn the tiara even before her mother's death; above, you can see her wearing the tiara in 1964. As a young woman, Margaretha wore the tiara on many occasions, including at the wedding of her youngest sister, Princess Christina, in 1974. Margaretha’s daughter, named Sibylla for her grandmother, also wore the heirloom tiara for her own wedding to Baron Cornelius von Dincklage in 1998.

Margaretha (visible behind Anna Westling) wears the tiara at Victoria's wedding

After the 1998 wedding, there was a long stretch of time where the aquamarines were not seen in public. Many feared that they had been sold. And then, in June 2010, Princess Margaretha unexpectedly appeared at the wedding of her niece, Crown Princess Victoria, wearing both the aquamarine tiara and the coordinating brooch.

Margaretha (in the top row near the center, wearing green) wears the tiara at Victoria's wedding

The tiara was apparently a last-minute choice; in the press release sent out by the royal court detailing the history of the jewels worn by the king’s sister, Margaretha was noted as wearing the Baden Fringe Tiara. (She did eventually wear the fringe at a Swedish royal wedding -- Princess Madeleine’s nuptials in 2013.) There are persistent rumors, however, the the tiara was sold -- but that the buyer was Margaretha's brother, the king. This theory was bolstered earlier this year when her sister, Princess Christina, wore the tiara. It's tough to say exactly who owns the tiara now, but as Margaretha lives a quiet life in the English countryside, it would make much more sense for other members of the family to get more use out of the piece -- and maybe place it in the Bernadotte jewel foundation?